A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN FERNHURST ROAD. John Murray, 1998.
Alec Reader, retired English master at Badger’s Mount School, writes:
When young Hodge’s ‘journal’ first reached me, my initial thought was that it was a prank. Hodge joined my English class in the Lent Term of 1945 and it was clear to me at once that this subject was not his forte. His grasp of grammar was woefully weak and his essays showed a lack of imagination remarkable even in a 12-year old.
In one of his reports I wrote that he was rather too keen on trying to raise a laugh in class and there will doubtless be those, who, on reading the pages of his ‘journal’, will find his descriptions of myself and my fellow members of staff amusing. I cannot pretend to be one of them.
On the other hand, I must confess that this account of his life at home and at school in Oxted, Surrey, following VE Day in 1945 displays literary merits of which I would never have believed him capable.
Hodge never struck me as an observant boy, yet I cannot think of another I have come across in a teaching career spanning forty years blessed with such an acute ear and eye for the eccentricities of the older generation. His History reports made, I seem to remember, even more dismal reading than my own, and yet he shows a keen interest in the world events against which he and his friends enjoyed untrammelled childhoods – the cowardly death of Adolph Hitler, the voters’ underhand dismissal of Winston Churchill, the dropping of the A-bombs on Japan, and the return of the banana.
I understand Hodge is seeking a publisher for his ‘journal’. On reflection, I wonder if my reports were not a little harsh. On the other hand, he really was very feeble on the rugger field.
Adapted by the author as a BBC Radio 4 drama serial in 2007.
Christopher Matthew is a Betjemaniac, disguising social history as nostalgia and lacing it with jokes. Nicholas Harman, The Spectator
Christopher Matthew’s A Nightingale Sang in Fernhurst Road is a little gem from the country’s most underrated humourist. Sheridan Morley, The Spectator Books of the Year
Hodge is an Adrian Mole of his times – that last enchanted Radio Fun decade before television barged its way into the chintzy drawing rooms of Oxted and changed everything. It is a gem, a joy. Keith Waterhouse, Daily Mail